How does one carry on a constructive conversation today? Maybe it can go something like this…
“These are troubling times.”
Our species sits in the middle of a global viral pandemic and an economic recession.
Is that all?
No. We have other complicating factors too.
Like what? Climate change?
Yes, and loss of species and ecosystems. The gradual replacement of human labour by smart machines. The growing gap of wealth and power between a small handful of humans and the rest.
Is there more?!
The polarization of political sentiments. The growing civil complexity across economic systems, political interests, social relationships and culture. You want more? How about the loss of a sense of community and belonging? Meaningless jobs? Stress, anxiety, despair…?
OMG!!! You’re depressing me! What are we going to do?
Maybe we get back to our roots. Not a recent normal, but an old normal – ancient.
A simpler time? How is that possible?
First of all we have to form a small group of people who can discuss these conditions and feel that they can reasonably address them in some small local way.
So you’re no longer lonely. What would that really accomplish?
Well, yes, we are social animals and we need validation and a sense of belonging. Also, you can’t do anything with a negative attitude. You will literally freeze up. A small group can have positive conversations that loosen up our creative imaginations. A small group will help us feel that we have a measure of control that can be scaled up.
What kind of group?
A small group of fewer than a dozen with a diversity of backgrounds and talents but who share a common concern for making a difference. The members are accountable to each other for delivering the goods they talk about.
Okay. And what did you mean by “scale up”?
Once you get a pattern of group conversation going and people start to live by their words, you can bring in other people. As the group grows to a dozen, they break it up into two groups.
Sure, a small group is easier to manage. So it would be like a cell dividing to propagate.
That’s right. If the group activities appeal to others, if they’re fulfilling, then the group will take off and live a life of its own, taking care of all of us. Before we know it, we have a small authentic community made up of small congenial groups.
I’ve seen many groups form and dissolve. So what’s the trick to make it work?
The group has to frankly address our common human values and goals, the kinds of things that are disappearing from our lives, the kinds of things that would fulfill us and make us truly human.
Is that it? We need a sober adult discussion? But the group diversity will divide us, won’t it?
Not if we focus on what we have in common. Underlying our differences we all have intelligence and we recognize the talents of others. We start by understanding that as a group we are smarter. We can access better solutions in three ways – 1) any member may have a sufficient answer, better than our own; 2) sometimes we can take an average of all ideas we come up with; and 3) we are bound to come up with new solutions that no one had thought of, just by sharing creative ideas!
Sure, its an over-used expression. But it is true. We are better together. Here are four ways in which we are better together.
· More is Better: You have a problem. Maybe you need to find work and make some money. Ask a group of people for a solution, maybe a job referral. You will get a number of answers or referrals. There is a good probability that you will get an answer that is better than your own, something you hadn’t thought of (remember to return the favour).
· Crowdsource Wisdom: You have a question. Maybe you need to estimate how long it takes to complete a standard project xyz. You ask a large number of qualified people to give their best estimates. Perhaps no one has exactly the right answer. But there is a good probability that the average of all those answers is very close!
· Brainstorming Synergy: You need a creative new solution because the old ones aren’t working. Maybe you need a new slogan for your business. You describe the situation and ask for input from a number of friends. They separately submit their own ideas to a pool or forum. Everyone reviews the shared ideas. Then in a second round of brainstorming they start thinking of new ideas that they hadn’t thought of earlier. You now have a lot of great ideas! You can then run a third round with the group to critically review and select the best new original idea! This is synergy, where the whole (group) is greater than or different from the sum of the parts (individuals).
· Apply Talent to Task: You need to complete a project but you don’t have all the required skills for the various project components. Recruit trusted people who have the talents that you don’t have and delegate the appropriate tasks to them. Recognize and reward them accordingly. Rinse and repeat!
Humans have always been social animals who depend on co-operation. As our world gets more complex we need to turn more often to these simple methods of collective intelligence to expand our world of possibilities and get things done!
Keep in mind the following:
Make it FUN!: Creativity can be fun for its own sake, but making it fun will attract more people and probably generate more good ideas.
Reciprocate: It can be difficult to evaluate each person’s contribution, so keep track and be ready to help others in a similar fashion when they ask. This should be a win-win experience.
Give Credit: Show appreciation for the contributions of others, even small contributions. This builds a culture of collaboration that serves everyone.
Diversity and Inclusion: This is not a political movement, its always been part of the facts of life — including a diverse range of backgrounds in your group will usually produce better surprises and outcomes
Trust and Respect: Trust, respect and fair play will always be valid requirements for any collaboration. It will usually be reciprocated.
While in training for cognitive coaching years ago, I learned that people under stress resort to their areas of greatest strengths. This means that whatever are your dominant talents, dispositions, or personality traits, these will become more pronounced in your thinking.
From an evolutionary psychology POV, this is probably an inherited survival strategy for the community. We bond over a common outside threat and specialize in what we do best to play our roles.
At the same time, under times of stress we become more inclined to follow a strong and smart leader (of your choice), focus and prepare to follow the mission strategy. The natural leader has a personal strength of being able to 1) assess a situation (opportunities and threats), 2) stay cool, 3) understand the human resources (strengths and weaknesses), 4) strategize and 5) appropriately delegate task to talent. A temporary steeper social hierarchy of control emerges for unified action.
Mother Nature made you a creative problem-solver within your domain, so ‘necessity is the Mother of invention!’ So, follow your inner Nature. Follow your chosen leader. Let your talents and passions flow. May the force of Nature be within you!
All of this flows so naturally that you are almost completely unaware. But you feel the stress hormones in your blood – adrenaline and cortisol. You are ready to do battle or engage the most dangerous game. You are pumped, but now the directions are unclear. We’re just told to ‘stay put‘.
In our ancestral tribal past we knew the leaders, our allies and the enemies. Our plans were practiced and perfected. But now, ‘someone stepped on the ant hill’. We don’t know our positions. We desperately seek sound leaders, their plans and our allies. Today, communicating on the web is like talking to the souls of the disembodied dead. The enemy is invisible but we see them everywhere. We disagree on leaders. Potential allies are either ghastly outspoken radicals or they’re dead quiet.
We need to pause, raise our mindfulness, divert our focus and energies from battle readiness to something constructive, like building our future together. Getting into shape. Putting our homes in order. Making new friends. Starting or reinventing your business. Building a better community. Joining an energy conservation initiative. The options are limitless. Start small or build on your accomplishments and test reality.
Your body has received a call to action!
Divert the stress to a constructive activity that calls for your special talents and passions! Now is the time to deploy your super-powers for the good of humanity and our planet!
I find myself moving away from moral judgement and toward psychological analysis and treatment of the many people who are not dealing effectively with our current reality. To help those who are suffering from delusions, anger or depression we need a different approach than moral condemnation. This just does not work.
Even if psychology is wrong, at least it is trying to understand people and their behaviour in a methodical manner (science) and over the long run gets closer to some practical truth.
Moral condemnation, on the other hand, is an instinctive reaction that makes no attempt to understand and appreciate another person’s state of mind. Also, it just doesn’t work. It may make you feel good about your self for a moment.
Shaming someone who does not wear a mask in a public place could start a fight. Or maybe it gets them to wear a mask next time they see you. It does not change the underlying attitudes, values or beliefs that lead to the original behaviour. Actually, it is likely to completely backfire and stir defiance and revenge against your kind (whatever that is).
We need to be patient and take time to understand and appreciate different perspectives and life experiences. That’s hard because just about every normal human believes they are smarter, more attractive, more hard-working and more moral than average. You want to believe you are right. You have many friends who feel the same way.
But you also believe in goodness, justice, love, tolerance, etc.. We need to be mindful and exercise these in challenging times
I am starting to believe that politics derives from morality, and morality derives from some innate sense of right and wrong, but which can vary somewhat from one person to another, and is invariably shaped by culture and life experience.
Personal diversity is part of Nature’s plan, except for maybe narcissists, which appear to be mistakes, or at least deviants from Nature’s purpose. Our diversity is a way to cover all the bases because we each cannot meet all the necessary requirements for success.
Also, sometimes people under pressure act badly regardless of their moral beliefs and values.
Giving appreciation and forgiveness have both been shown to promote mental health, well-being and happiness.
Consider and appreciate the biggest miracle gift of all.
You and I exist.
No one can explain that.
We cannot even comprehend the alternative — that nothing at all exists.
By default, nothing should exist, not even space and time. No energy or matter, no information or knowledge.
Yet here we are!
Even grasping the notion of God as creator does not help explain, since how could any God possibly exist?
As for our mental health, much of the stress and background anxiety we experience today is a result of the growing civil complexity. We have too many things happening too fast. Its making us all emotionally sick.
Our species has been too successful. Civilization is approaching the maximum, a tipping point, beyond which civil order is not sustainable. It is called a diseconomy of scale and it results in diminishing returns on investment. In other words, it will take too much energy and effort to maintain order. We facing the universal and inevitable Scaling Laws of Nature.
We are beginning to live in fear that someone Evil is trying to control us. Is it the radical right or the radical left? Is it a violent religious sect? Is the super-rich? Is it the impending robot nation and cyber-masters? Someone with too much testosterone in their system wants total control — winner take all!
When the background anxiety reaches a feverish pitch we grasp for the offending target. All our worries consolidate around and fixate on that source of our concern. We go into an instinctive ‘fight or flight‘ mode.
And, yes, many testosterone pumped sociopaths are in fact trying to self-actualize by grabbing the opportunities amidst the chaos. They sense your fear and leverage it. So paranoia is not unjustified. It may be your hero who’s telling you exactly what you want to hear. You’ve been anesthetized by reassuring words and more importantly, the hero’s confident persuasive body language.
Problem is, we are blindfolded by information overload, propaganda and disinformation. We draw a blank, suspended in a dancing landscape. We desperately seek a simple fact, a single target as our enemy. We reduce to right and wrong, good and evil. “Where is the off switch?”
We cancel the Evil ones and their propagandists while blindly following our Saint’s dictums and mantras like faithful worshipers and soldiers.
But reality is not simple. Though times have been simpler in the past, its hard to recover any sense of a common destiny, an implicit bond of trust, or a oneness with something bigger.
Yet, as surely as we face an Evil enemy, we must also face our own fears and understand that those fears are there to protect us. They are trying to do their job. Maybe it is our fear itself that we must manage first before we can continue our search for truth and goodness in the confusion and chaos.
Elements of Our Nature
The miracle gift we have received consists of just two ‘things’ — entities and events, embedded in space and time. We are entities and we live in a continuous stream of events. There are only two events (processes) that living entities like us do in time — they come together and they go apart. Like addition and subtraction operating in every infinitesimal fraction of an instant.
Hence, in our most reptilian brain we approach or avoid. We approachopportunities to continue and we avoid threats so we can continue. We feel love and joy as we approach opportunities and we feel hate and fear as we avoid threats. Its simple. Its biological.
In a sharply polarized political landscape our social instincts are hard at work getting us to align with one side or the other. “You are with us or you are against us”, say both sides. “You must choose!”
Throughout history, war has usually been about neighbouring geographic communities struggling for control over territorial resources. But our current scenario is a dramatic moment of radical civil bifurcation. Its not about geography. But it is a psycho-social phenomenon. Knowing that no one has a monopoly on truth and goodness, you can choose to work the middle ground between right and left.
Left and right are artificial constructs, legacies of a bygone era. There is no scientific basis for this bipolar spectrum. At either extreme we can have either anarchy or totalitarianism. There is no way only one side can be correct. But your needs for defense and social solidarity will align you with one or the other.
You can know in your heart that Nature (or God) created people who are different for a purpose. Its not an accident that we all vary in personality, intelligence, innate preferences and talents. We were designed by Nature to work together and share in the collective outcomes – whether you’re left or right!
These diverse gifts make us stronger as a species. That’s why there are so many of us!
If there is one thing to be grateful for at this Thanksgiving 2020, it is that you still have the faculties to see through your fears and hates. You have the potential to see the goodness in others in spite of both outward and inward differences.
You know that Humanity would not be where it is today, with all of our knowledge, progress and well-being unless people we don’t know or understand were creating a continuous stream of value for the common good.
I include entrepreneurs, inventors, bookkeepers and social workers. I appreciate their work and the work of engineers and equipment operators, teachers and administrators. I am grateful for those retired from their past labours as well as those young who are yet to contribute.
In spite of any political, religious, racial, or ethnic differences, I appreciate your contribution to making our world a better place.
As for the sociopaths (Narcissistic, Histrionic and Anti-social personality disorders) among us ? Without empathy, they should not be holding public office or running public corporations. If they commit crimes, they should not be punished, but locked up. I do believe that Nature makes the occasional mistake. Some may be treated, and others, maybe no so much.
The world can be a better place if we take this to heart and once again, in the spirit of community, see the goodness in others. It would be good for our mental health to take time to break down social, cultural, economic and political barriers and explore our common Humanity in each of us.
Okay, this is the way it goes. I’m not going to hold back. This is my bold honest opinion about what needs to happen very soon. Its both scary and hopeful. Sure, we need to keep calm. We need a sense of humour. We need empathy, compassion, and obedience to the rule of law. We need the comforts of familiarity. And we need to make sense of our chaotic world.
April 1, 2020 we gradually wake up in a nightmare as we learn about the dominoes going down around the world. Its not a dream. Its not April Fools. A few weeks pass and the near future is sinking in. The COVID-19 virus takes out a wide swath of people, the stock markets crash; governments are slow to respond; supplies run short; people are laid off; small businesses fear losing their life’s investments… on and on…
We are all in various states and stages of shock.
We can believe in 2021 but we don’t know how to bridge. We seek a “New Normal“. For years many people have been discovering that our fearless leaders are not demigods. They are human. Some of them are even quite dysfunctional. There is no heir apparent, no savior has appeared to take us home again.
Many people have died. More will die. We don’t know how many. We wake up in the morning and its like being inside an apocalyptic movie. There can be no spoiler alert. No one knows how this ends. Some people are just going into emotional shock — stunned and confused.
To complicate matters further, Saudi Arabia decides to over-produce oil and crash the world price of oil. Oil consuming nations may welcome this, but who is driving? What factories are open to take advantage of the cost reduction? Oil producing economies like Alberta’s take a cold dive without a breath.
I said that I would be brutally honest. People are talking about how we can ever recover from this bedlam and mayhem. What just happened? Reference points are gone. Fake news goes viral accelerated by foreign leaders’ campaigns designed precisely for that purpose. Fear and self-doubt scatter and weaken the prey and make them easy targets. These age-old military strategies and tactics take on a new face to a generation of idealistic innocents. Grand narcissists have played us with the modern tools and ancient cunning.
We know that different people respond differently under pressure. We know that under stress, people fortunately revert to their natural personal strengths. But as they reach their thresholds of tolerance they lose their senses and powers of reason. Some people are closer to the tipping points than others.
This is a breeding ground for the old “shock and awe” strategy of dominance. As cult leaders groom and prey on those forlorn and in despair, the seekers find solace in a new order, a new normal, that feeds on the innate need for the safety of community. The cult mentality is not without its attraction. It provides an order. There are espoused shared values and beliefs, though the leaders know better.
We may have misjudged the role of cults, religions and political parties. The social psychological patterns are far more similar then different. Cults stand out because they so distinctly and intentionally mark their boundaries, isolating their groups from the general population. Religions provide a moral code while political parties prescribe a legal code. Both provide social and cultural frameworks that enable power-seekers and narcissists to self-actualize.
There is no single right answer. Life everywhere has always been an ongoing experiment. The answers we need are within us — each and everyone of us.
Context Adds Meaning
This pandemic sits on top of global climate change, fears of AI and job displacement, political tribalism, the billionaire break-away class and pop-culture narcissism. We have been struggling with meaningless work, loneliness, disengagement and the loss of community ties. We are distracted and disoriented going into this pandemonium.
In fact, Alvin Toffler pointed out in 1970 that civil complexity is accelerating and the pace of change is growing at a compounded exponential rate. Its all mathematically certain. It follows the laws of network effects and scaling. Toffler told us 50 years ago we had more knowledge, artifacts and people than in the previous 800 years combined. The pace has continued to accelerate.
More than 30 years ago, anthropologist Joseph Tainter pointed out that the best explanation for the collapse of past civilizations was that they ran into diseconomies of scale. They got so complex that they became too expensive to operate. They lost agility and capacity to innovate and repair (more on Babel later). We have seen the same phenomenon of diminishing returns on investment in very large complex corporations and governments – any very large bureaucracy.
We need to hit the proverbial reset button.
“So, Randal, when are you going to get to the good and hopeful part?”
Time to Re-frame
Obviously we start by looking to the past and lessons learned. Many pundits bring up the financial crisis of 2008, 9/11, the fall of the Iron Curtain, etc. They go back to October 1986, 1929 and the 1919 Flu Pandemic for some guidance. They might be better off looking into how all living systems work, and that research is already well advanced in academia. But the academics seem to be pretty silent on the sidelines.
There are similarities and differences among all things. Under our microscopes, nothing is unique or identical. Nature repeats itself and our brains are designed as pattern seekers and replicators. In fact, I believe that we will eventually discover that all of the laws of Nature will be reduced to a single fractal algorithm.
In the 1940s and ’50s a group of international polymaths (Allen Turing, Claude Shannon, Jon von Neuman, Ross Ashby, Jay Forrester, Herbert Simon, Norbert Wiener, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, etc.) concocted a grand theory variously called cybernetics, general systems theory, operations research or management science. In reality it was a theory to explain both intelligence and life itself. It even explained evolution as a learning process with DNA as the storage (memory) medium. Since those early days, smart people added sub-disciplines such as chaos theory, decision theory, game theory and complex adaptive systems.
Unfortunately, cybernetics was seconded to serve the computer, and AI industry and management science was relegated to optimizing manufacturing assembly lines. Few people have heard of general systems theory, devised by Ludwig von Bertalanffy right here at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The long-forgotten von Bertalanffy, who virtually invented mathematical biology, literally wrote some of the earliest books on the Nature of intelligence (Robots, Men and Minds, 1967).
When in 1960 Thomas Kuhn wrote up the history of science in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions it became apparent that knowledge itself evolves as a cultural phenomenon. The discipline of the sociology of knowledge was born. Later, Dawkins would coin the term ‘meme‘ to capture the role of ideas in cultural and semantic evolution, poetically suggesting a parallel to genes in biological evolution.
These are no trivial academic exercises, unless you want to overlook the intellectual legacy of the 20th century as we reconstruct the 21st. But as Kuhn said in the ’60s, paradigms don’t change until there is a collapse. Over the past 150 years, or maybe going back 500 years in the west, there has been a growing worldview dominated by the success of economics. Through successive disruptive civil introductions of patent protection, incorporation, stock markets, mass production, steam power, fossil fuels, electricity and telecommunications, we have made transformative progress in leaps and bounds. Its hard to argue with that material success.
There have been rumblings on the sidelines. Its the global economy. No. Its the knowledge economy. No. Its the sharing economy. No! Its the new economy. Local economist Mark Anielski has been promoting the idea of an economy that measures gross domestic happiness and aspires to fulfill the well-being.
Personally, I believe a paradigm shift is in order. But perhaps a number of things have to happen in relative synchronicity. We have to put personal happiness and well-being as top priority, but that by itself is not sufficient. We need to think bigger than just the legacy economic systems.
We need to simplify our worldviews. Just as we have all constructed our personal and shared worldviews, we need to deconstruct them to understand how they work and then reconstruct them with a better understanding of how we fit into the Big Picture that is Nature. Reality is not disciplinary.
There is an economy of everything. If we were to reconstruct the ideas of ‘economy’ we should start with our understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, and ecosystems, and understand that human activity is just another layer on top of those layers. Our economy (and all civilization) is a natural emergent property as we — as animals — interact.
Alternatively, think of bird nests, ground-squirrel tunnels and beaver dams as economic infrastructure. Honestly, an alien from another planet would see our lives on this planet as more similar than different, more different in degrees than different in kind.
What makes us most different from other animals is symbolic communication. Culture, while observed in small does in other species is vastly increased with symbolic communication. Culture creates a whole new playing field above the biological.
What we call politics is now being better understood in terms of decision theory and game theory. Our legacy views of left and right, individualist versus collectivist views, are sorely out of date. Life is far more complicated than these simplistic schematics. The tools of management science and optimization are now beginning to be applied in governance, not just of corporations, but in all our living civil systems.
When we put this all together we see a very different landscape. Our worldview is simplified by focusing on the similarities that run throughout civilizations as well as ecosystems, biosphere and the planet s a whole. In fact, the same patterns will be found across the universe.
I believe that we shall prevail. We can score higher or lower on outcomes depending on how we play our cards. If we dig deep and find the rudimentary concepts and principles of how our human civilization – or any civilization – works, then we may find sufficient time to reverse our fortunes.
I believe the best prospects lie in the cluster of related disciplines I will call, for simplicity, “management science“.
I think many people were in low grade “Covid Shock” up until about now. Maybe we are moving into a new mental state of “Covid Fatigue“.
No one wants to admit it, but the emotional stresses are adding up. You won’t admit it because you don’t want to appear vulnerable. That’s an animal instinct at work inside you. You may or may not have experienced it before. Its a sense of defensiveness, raised by the uncertainties of our world.
Your instincts tell you to find the source of the threat or threats. The pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetime. If something like this could happen, then maybe other similarly world-shaking events can also happen. Maybe there are demonic forces among us trying to take advantage of the opportunities while we are confused. They spread false news to mislead you.
Fear is one of the most powerful emotions. Week after week, the experiences of uncertainty, doubts and fears wears you down. You feel powerless. More vulnerable. More angry at that someone out there — “they” are up to something nefarious. Maybe they are.
But there are also forces of goodness rising to the occasion. There are good people pushing agendas for our better collective interest, protecting the rights of individuals, families and communities. They are our best bet for our future. They lead with hope and happiness. Seek them out, Find them. Connect and lend your support. You will feel empowered.
I’ve been strangely silent on recent matters of our common humanity.
As a bit of a perfectionist, I like to reserve judgement concerning the trajectory of our human endeavors. I know civilization and all its parts all have lives of their own.
I look for points of intervention, where a few well-chosen words might make a big difference. I am at a loss. Maybe I continue to expect things to automatically settle down into that much-needed New Normal. Maybe I wait for Godot.
Deep in my heart I hope I am wrong about us having reached the apex of civilization and its imminent demise. I want to believe I am wrong when I assert that the human brain was not evolved to manage such complexities as we must wrangle in this 21stC.
I must be wrong to believe in civil entropy, the drift into random disorder and collapse. Yet much has been written in physics and Natural law. I long to be right that it is still possible to find simplicity in civil complexity so we can buy more time and once again get on top of our game.
We need imagination to reinvent. But imagination driven by fear or by hope produces very different results. Both are very active right now, in search of a future. The destruction of selected old wrongs can precipitate a destruction of the whole. Hope may be a denial or a delusion.
I fear that though there are answers no one is prepared to listen. The window of opportunity lies between two poles — to have enough shock to grab attention, but not so much that people cannot listen. If you are listening, let me just say that there are answers and solutions within us and the framework of our Nature. Our brains naturally seek simplicity and order, but we are preoccupied with the emotional business of the day. We must pause and reflect on our place in Nature.
Within each human heart is a vacuum the size and shape of community. Community is the largest natural social order. If we lose it we cannot function properly. We need strong healthy pairs, families, groups and teams, organizations and communities.
Only from these solid foundations can we scale-up the social fractal of Nature in which we are inevitably embedded. The giant metropolis, nations and global corporation are not natural. They are artifacts, soulless artificial extensions without capacity to support an authentic sense of trust or belonging. They sit on top of our organic relationships as a distraction from our human purposes.
As currently constructed, we are not at home in the modern global civilization. This is not where we do our best business. This is not conducive to our best behaviour nor our pursuit of meaning. Gone is our civil public dialogue. Gone is the benefit of the doubt. Gone is our sense of connectedness. Replaced by accusations, suspicions, isolation and loneliness.
No one is to blame, though there are many who will exploit the confusion for personal gain and glory. These gigantic artificial constructs are collective outcomes from collective actions.
What we must do to rectify the unfolding disaster scenario is to systematically raise our collective intelligence to match the complexities of our global civilization. We know how to do this inasmuch as we can raise the intelligence of a dullard committee to that of a high performance team. Simply scale-up!
We may get lucky and things may settle down on their own. But sooner or later, civil complexity will become unmanageable unless we make concerted efforts to raise global collective intelligence from our natural pairs and small groups upward.
This initiative will not be instinctive like love and friendship. It will demand a learned appreciation of both human diversity and human integration.
There are no two identical things anywhere in the universe – if you look closely enough. Life depends on the integration of diversity in our DNA, cells, tissues, organs and the whole being, as well as the social systems and ecosystems in which we are embedded.
Throughout the human population we have countless ways in which we are both similar and different. Political differences are good for us as a whole provided they are effectively integrated.
Through millions of years our species has depended on all these similarities and differences for our survival. As individuals we cannot learn as much as we can as a community. Ironically, even as we compete, the rewards of competition are shared.
Collectively, our personal differences widen the scope of things we will study, comprehend and utilize. Math, language, science, the arts, and ‘spiritual’ pursuits have all contributed to our modern civilization. Yet don’t ask me about math!
THEREFORE it behooves us to tolerate, appreciate and then embrace our political differences as well. We would not be the advanced civilization or species we are today if it were not for some critical differences among us across the population – including political differences! This variety makes us stronger.
There is growing evidence from the works of moral, social and political psychology, that our different political dispositions are largely based on our different biological (brain) constitutions. Can we deny our own human nature of which each of us is only a subset?
We must figure out how to establish a new dialogue to bridge left and right before we have chaos and civil war that divides families, communities and nations. Together, left and right are not only stronger, but only together are we sustainable.
In an ideal democracy it is the dialogue that rules, leading to a synthesis of best ideas, and occasionally brute compromise.
What we have to screen out are those who are biologically or psychologically unfit to represent the public interest. Unfortunately for us, both left and right have been duped by these individuals who have over the course of their lives mastered the art and craft of mimicking and manipulating the emotions of others. As self-actualizing deviants they are drawn to positions of power, acquiring useful knowledge and skills along the way.
Again, left and right are not immune. The left may see the deviance in a right leader, while the right will see the deviance in the leaders on the left. Then the whole tribe is tainted. Your leader is telling you what you want to hear. Of course my leader is noble and righteous! And these sentiments are inflamed in times of chaos when good leadership is critical.
On an additional note, I don’t believe that all politicians start out as narcissists, but many of them seem to become narcissistic as they get more power. For one thing, testosterone increases as someone gets more popular or powerful. Then they get more paranoid. Then they consolidate power against the evil ones who would dethrone them.
If there is a failing in democracy, it is that we have not adopted better screening and management of our leaders. There were signed petitions by American psychiatrists and psychologist about Trump’s psychological disorders. But they were ignored.
Back to moral and political psychology. We need to embrace left and right as part of our human condition. We need to find a way to build and maintain a constructive dialogue among our fellow humans.
Nature has designed humans to be not only different but complementary. People high in oxytocin are caring lovers. People high in testosterone are driven and competitive. There is a natural distribution of these differences across the population, and its not just about women and men.
The population in any human community needs both tendencies for long term survival. We need people high in supportive empathy as well as people who are high in risk calculating logic. Sometimes the other seems completely gullible and sometimes the other seems completely without compassion.
Maybe these hormones and their traits translate into behaviour patterns and personality types. Maybe they translate into political positions on a left-right spectrum. Research is ongoing. Maybe people need people who are complementary in different ways at different times. In good times we want a mix of fairness and competitive progress. In tough times we need to gather into tight-knit teams and strengthen our competitive defenses against the common threat.
The alternative view is that maybe we need to have the left and right destroy each other. How would that work out? What about the people who are just a bit to your left or right? If you’re high in empathy maybe you’re not as empathetic as people further to your left. They see you as a threat. What if you’re a driven calculator? But people on your right see you as not as driven or calculating as they are. They see you as a threat.
My waffling compassionate logic tells me the second alternative is not sustainable. Therefore I conclude that we must figure out how to make Mother Nature’s formula work for all of us.
This is particularly important now that we no longer live in small villages where everyone fully knew one another and could appreciate our differences.
In fact, I think it is the anonymity provided by urbanization that places us at a personal distance from one another. We tend to objectify each other and mistake our differences as cause for concern. We have exceeded the scalability of our own human nature.
Homo Sapiens have moved far from our native state of community. We can’t know how much we have lost over the past centuries. Perhaps a shock of some kind could awaken that need to join together in groups. Unfortunately, this is not yet a deliberate approach. In a state of shock and anxiety we are instinctively forming war parties. Sniff out, label and demonize the others.
Its the pandemic! It is creating anxiety that is poorly identified with a common threat. Its easier to point a finger of moral blame at your old enemy on the other side. Kill them? No. That won’t work. Don’t waste your time even thinking about it. Instead, embrace the other as they complete you. Its a matter of both logic and emotion.
Now, if we could prevent the 6% of our our population who have personality disorders such as sociopathy and narcissism (and maybe Histrionic Personality Disorder) from running for democratic office, that is quite a different question. These people are Mother Nature’s mistakes. Sometimes they are correctable, but that’s unlikely with current knowledge.
But even then their failures are not a question of morality. Its a practical matter that these people are not capable of representing the public interest. They are not mentally or emotionally equipped to do that. They are very good at repeating what they think people want to hear. They have been doing that nearly all their lives to manipulate and get control. They like to whip up the excitement and inflame people. The voter loses control over the democratic process.
Like anyone else, however, these mistaken personalities are striving toward their own self-actualization. They are on your left and on your right. The popularity contests and the idea of control draw them into politics just as in the corporate world. You may be enthralled by your hero and you may want to cancel your villain. Look closely, however, and you may find the worst kind of violation has been perpetrated against you. Don’t let your anger or hatred make you vulnerable to Nature’s sly and selfish mistakes. Those emotions make you blind to manipulation.
Bottom line is that we need each other and we don’t need people who exploit us for personal aggrandizement.