An on-going Town Hall Meeting!
Topic: Class war, Culture war, or Holy war?
We all saw the fractious and unruly town hall meetings during the health insurance reform debate. The country really seems strongly divided. My question is:
The following list explores one axis of the current cultural polarization in the USA.
(Feel free to suggest additions or revisions to the pairs of opposites.)
|Certainty||Probability & Ambiguity|
|Divine Creation||Emerging Self Organization (evolution)|
|Divine Right of King||Human Rights|
|Pecking Order||Peer to Peer|
|Follow the Leader||Do the Right Thing|
|Law of the Jungle||Golden Rule|
|Top Down||Bottom Up|
|Rule of Men||Rule of Law|
|Trickle Down||Rising Tide|
|Might Makes Right||Power Corrupts|
|Ends Justify Means||Uniform Justice|
|Caviat Emptor||Consumer Protection|
|Global Monoculture||Bio-Regional Diversity|
|Racism||Brotherhood of Man|
|Mean Spirit||Do no harm|
|Breakers ||Keepers, Fixers, Healers |
Most of the items on either side of the list are things that seem to be deeply embedded in humans, things that seem fairly intractable to change. Where you are on the axis is pretty much where you’ve always been and will always stay. These aren’t things people tend to be very flexible about, are they?
ARE THERE TWO SUB-SPECIES OF HUMANITY?
Coming of age in the highly polarized sixties left me with a lifelong curiosity about how a modern society could be so divided in the ways people understood the facts of life, history and reality. In the days of Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels, the state of human knowledge, science, education, printing, etc. might easily explain a great deal of divergence among beliefs and opinions. But one hardly finds any credible explanation surviving into modern times other than some kind of genetic distinction, the popular culture having become so homogeneous and ubiquitous nowadays.
But still faced with a seemingly irreparable schism in our population fifty years on, I am personally inclined to see the advantages of an all out war like the one in the Bhagavad Gita to settle the conflict once and for all. Of course, some scholars see the Gita as an allegory in which the war takes place not between multiple combatants but between different aspects within an individual soul.
Likewise, what I have characterized as two subspecies of humanity may both exist as polarities, like good and evil, or fear and courage, within every individual. I dare say there must be some truth to that, but I don’t think it helps to solve the problem without a war. After all, most of us seem to be choosing up sides pretty unambiguously thanks to catalysts such as Fox News.
If the masses are so passionately divided, who should deny them the satisfaction of a goode olde holy-cultural-evolutionary war? At the very least we should franchise a Culture Fight Club in every town– a place where conflicts between class, culture, religion, etc. could be settled by personal combat. In this age of Cable TV and the Internet, when each person is entitled to his or her own personal facts, how else are we going to settle arguments?
One solution to the cluture war, if in fact it were a clash between two genetic phenotypes that I call the authoritarians and egalitarians, would be for one side of the conflict to humanely sterilize the other. This would be fine for the authoritarians but alas, the egalitarians don’t allow for the ends to justify the means. Our hands are kind of tied from any direct way of actually destroying the authoritarian gene pool.
But for the conscientious objectors among us, what if the coming environmental “perfect storm”, which might destroy a substantial part of the human population, gave one sub-species the opportunity to just survive better than the other? We tend to see authoritarians as survivors, but are they always? What if survival depends on the ability to change ones interior point of view rather than controlling external conditions?
What if the surviving authoritarians were to enclose themselves tightly within their own defensive perimeters on dwindling patches of prime real estate, leaving most of the planet to the rest of us? What if the meek were to inherit the earth simply as a result of superior preparation, mainly in the form of already being used to applying appropriate manual skill sets on marginal property?
There may be an important opportunity hidden in any environmental apocalypse that might occur. Who knows what will actually happen–but if there should be a drastic depopulation it could be turned into an opportunity by whoever was best prepared for it.
Also, I am pointing out that there may indeed be a materialistic logic behind the old and ubiquitous prophesy that the meek shall inherit the earth. If the meek were those who were already adapted to minimal subsistence, they might also be best adapted to a collapse of civilization, especially any part of civilization that is heavily dependent on unsustainable technology and infrastructure. In this case the “should” need come from no more than the wish to survive. (Some may actually prefer not to.)
To participate in this on-going Town Hall Meeting about the divides in the US public, please leave your comments below.
I prefer the biology and neuroscience to the psychology and evolutionary theories, but it’s all very interesting. The following wikipedia articles have substantial overlap:
Listen to the story Bill Moyers tells about an Old Cherokee Chief and his “two wolves” at 6:20 into this video: